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Satellites Can Play Vital Roles In Homeland Security

By | November 3, 2003

      By D.K.Sachdev

      Modern satellite systems stand out among technologies that can serve the needs of homeland security by offering unmatched capabilities for wide-area communications coverage.

      If appropriate redundancy and hardening measures are taken to protect their ground control networks, satellite systems have the highest probability of survival in times of national and international emergencies. These attributes make them attractive for homeland security needs, including the prevention of future disasters as well as for relief and recovery operations.

      Recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated what satellite systems can provide in terms of mobile communications, remote sensing and tactical surveillance, as well as for real-time transmissions around the globe. Mobile phones from Globalstar, Inmarsat, Iridium and Thuraya were used for battlefield tactical needs, restoration of communication, and dissemination of reports from journalists. Precision imaging was raised to a whole new level by both military and commercial satellite systems.

      Wide-band live images via satellites multiplied several-fold the effectiveness of unmanned aerial vehicles. Global networks, using microwave and optical satellite links, will enhance the utility of such applications in the future.

      Homeland security needs are being progressively defined. There is a keen interest in the satellite industry to play a role both in this definition phase, as well as in the technology development and implementation phases. However, needs cannot always be “predefined.” Therefore, it is in the industry’s interest to develop and offer innovative solutions by using all applicable technological advances when they become available.

      Presentations at a recent meeting of the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) in Washington, D.C., identified some of these applications:

      • Tracking of shipping containers across the high seas using existing mobile satellites with systems supplied by Dulles, Va.-based SkyBitz.
      • Creation of secure information-sharing network backbones, including satellite paths provided by companies like Germantown, Md.-based V-ONE.
      • Development of underwater sensor systems to protect the nation’s water infrastructures against biohazards.
      • Contributions by the National Imagery & Mapping Administration to provide timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security. Greater contributions by commercial companies like DigitalGlobe as a result of recent government directive to use at least 50 percent commercial imagery.
      • Future Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) systems using GPS and communication satellites for added security and dependability.
      • Use of digital audio radio service (DARS) systems for broadcast of nationwide or directed emergency messages.

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